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Somehow, Wilson Is Still There

Despite tearing biceps tendon in February, veteran of U.S. men's gymnastics team is back for his third Olympics.

August 14, 2004|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — Blaine Wilson shouldn't be on this U.S. Olympic men's gymnastics team. Not after tearing his left biceps tendon in February. A 30-year-old gymnast whose best tricks are performed on the still rings, where one must use every muscle in the arms to hang still, then swing and twist, only to hang still again, should be useless after such an injury.

Yet Wilson, a three-time Olympian, has completed an unexpected physical comeback, which he'll celebrate today by performing on all six apparatus during the first round of the men's Olympic team competition and individual all-around qualifying.

Wilson, defending all-around world champion Paul Hamm and Brett McClure, are the three U.S. men who will be scored on floor exercise, horizontal bar, vault, parallel bars, still rings and pommel horse.

The top 24 gymnasts advance to the all-around finals, but each country can have no more than two competitors.

Upland's Jason Gatson, who has come back from two serious knee surgeries, will perform on parallel bars, pommel horse, rings and horizontal bar, and will anchor the team on parallel bars. The anchor is the final performer, the one expected to score the best.

Wilson will anchor the rings rotation and Paul Hamm will finish in three events -- floor exercise, horizontal bar and vault. The U.S. will begin the competition on the parallel bars.

Today's scores also will serve as the team qualifying. The U.S. men, who have finished fifth in the last two Olympics, are expected to push China for the team gold medal Monday.

Wilson finished a disappointing sixth in the all-around at the Sydney Games, after predicting he would win a medal. After his injury at the Visa American Cup on Feb. 28, it was questionable whether he could recover in time to even make the team. He was one of the final two chosen for the six-man Olympic team.

But Wednesday, Wilson said he was feeling healthy and happy.

"My physical condition is great," he said. "And my mental condition is great. I can do six events, no problem. Whatever is best for the team."

Peter Vidmar's silver at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, boycotted by the then-Soviet Union and most of the Eastern European countries, is the only Olympic all-around medal won by a U.S. man.



American Rotation

The U.S. will be represented today in the men's gymnastics team competition by these athletes (in order of appearance):



* Guard Young, Blaine Wilson, Paul Hamm, Brett McClure, Jason Gatson



* McClure, Gatson, Wilson, Morgan Hamm, Paul Hamm



* McClure, Wilson, Young, Morgan Hamm, Paul Hamm



* Wilson, Gatson, Morgan Hamm, Paul Hamm, McClure



* McClure, Young, Paul Hamm, Gatson, Wilson

*--* VAULT


* Wilson, McClure, Young, Morgan Hamm, Paul Hamm

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